Folkestone & Hythe District Council on Wednesday 20th Nov are to vote on the recommendation that additional capital funding of one hundred million pounds (£100,000,000 million) be made available to enable the Otterpool Park project to be delivered. This figure is an “estimate“, meaning the Council could bring further recommendations to full Council, or Cabinet, to ask for more money.
The Council make it clear in Report C/19/23 they’ll have to set up an arm’s length body in which the council will have shares. East Kent Housing is an arm’s length body in which the council have a 25% share but it has failed miserably because it has not delivered what it said on the tin.
But this is not what gives us grounds for plausible suspicion of wrongdoing by our Council.
What gives us grounds for this suspicion is that the Council’s finance department cannot add up. Now to substantiate the claim, we have what amounts to more than a plausible suspicion of wrongdoing, which has a plausible basis for our suspicion.
On the 27th August our public face made an Freedom of Information (FoI) request. He asked the Council for the amount they had spent on temporary staff agencies in 2018 and 2019. On the 20th September, the Council responded by informing our public face they had spent the following amounts on temporary staff agencies, for 2018 and 2019:
Table 1: 2018 Council FoI Response
However, the Council’s published payment to suppliers data tells another story. For 2018 the monthly spend data on temporary staff agencies says:
Table 2: 2018 Council’s Payment to Suppliers Data
The gross difference between the Council’s FoI response and their published data is £87,730.50 in 2018. So what has happened to the difference? If this is an adding error, then what other significant errors have been made with regards to the Councils financial data. If it is not an adding error, are persons on the take? Or have there been double payments and/or overpayments?
Payment to temporary staff agencies in 2019 for gross amounts follows a similar pattern.
Table 3: FoI Response 2019
Table 4: Councils Payment to Suppliers Data (to August 2019)
This is a difference of £193,523.14 between the gross amounts. So what has happened to the difference? Another adding error! These are significantly different amounts. If it is not an adding error, are Council staff on the fiddle? Are they overpaying temporary staff agencies?
The gross differences when added together for 2018 and 2019 is £281,253.64. Every penny and every pound is public money, yet the Council have not offered any explanation of this significant difference. None.
On the 20th Sept, our public face asked for an internal review of his FoI request. He did so because the data the Council sent disagrees with what they published significantly. The Council should have responded by Oct 21st 2019, or asked for a time extension for a further 20 days. This they did not do. As of today, 18th November, the 60th day since the request, the Council have not answered why there is a discrepancy of £281,253.64 between what they sent via FoI and what they’ve published. This gives rise to a plausible suspicion of wrongdoing, which has a plausible basis for our suspicion, as the Council have failed to give an answer, or an explanation for the 281,253.64 discrepancy.
Now the Council want to set up an arm’s length body to undertake the development of Otterpool Park, and have access to £100 million pounds. As the Council are unable to explain why there is a difference of £281,253.64, between their FoI response and their payment to suppliers data for the amounts paid to Temporary Staff agencies, residents should be very concerned about the Council’s accountancy skills with £100,000,000 million, as should our Councillors.
This is public money, all two hundred and eighty one thousand two hundred and fifty three pounds and sixty four pence of it. The Council must explain themselves if the residents of the district are to be re-assured about them managing £100,000,000 million for the Otterpool Park development. We hope they will real soon.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful